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It is safe to assume that the UK student population has taken to  social media like a duck to water. Social networks have become a hive of activity for students up and down the country, conversing with each other, sharing photos and organising events. However, whilst the students may have taken to social media with ease, what can be said of the institutions they inhabit?

Whilst some institutions are positioned on social networks, this is often with little pre-thought given to the associated risks and opportunities; this is where the challenges faced by universities become apparent. Although university pages may have begun to grow in follower numbers, without a structure set in place, the university needs to return back to basics to set the foundations through which it can look to engage with its students.

Emma Leech, Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Higher Education Members Special Interest Group, has commented: “Traditional in-house communicators now have to grasp the nettle and move forward to realise the opportunities social media presents in order to be at the heart of the conversation. There are beacons of best practice out there but the majority are still only using the tool as a push mechanism”.

With no universities currently utilising social media to its full capability, moving into the social sphere may appear a daunting task. However, a strong strategy and clever planning could push a university body to become a leading example to other institutions through the nature of its engagement process, thereby improving the institute’s visibility and encouraging more students to potentially consider the university in the future.

Without suitable planning, the potential of social media can be lost and institutes may only see a detrimental effect come from their efforts. With such a large number of students around the world using these networks on a daily basis, universities have a great opportunity to engage with potential and current students, but ill-preparation will only see this opportunity disappear as students continue to use networks while paying little attention to an institute’s page. The opportunities are clearly there, but universities must first understand how toproperly engage through these networks, rather than jumping in at the deep end.

Follow this series of blog posts for information and tips on how to create a strong social strategy to help target the ever-growing student social network population.

James Leavesley – Co-founder CrowdControlHQ

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